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DE SOTO, Kan. —Two major developments will soon take root in southwest De Soto, Kansas. 

On Thursday, the De Soto City Council approved an ordinance to create a new tax district on the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. The council also approved the rezoning of 371 acres of land at 103rd Street and Edgerton Road to make way for a new industrial development. 

The Sunflower property 

During a public hearing, residents and county officials shared their thoughts on the creation of a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district on 5,877 acres of the former ammunition plant. 

“I think this development will help our city. I see no downside to the TIF district, as the taxes it generates goes right back into paying off the obligation bonds,” De Soto resident Zach Bradley said. 

Johnson County Sheriff  Calvin Hayden said he is excited about new development on the Sunflower property, but felt county and state leaders should have been more involved in ensuring the timely removal of hazardous materials from the site.

“Let’s not do the same thing over and over again. The government created this problem. If I break something, I fix it. They made this problem. They created it in the name of national defense, the most honorable thing they could do, but it’s their problem. Let them clean it up,” Hayden said. 

Kevin Wempe with Gilmore and Bell explained the initial establishment of a TIF district does not require the financial details for each specific project. The dollar amount for each TIF project within the district would be established at a later date through a future agreement with the city.  

According to a predevelopment agreement approved by the city in November, the developer intends to use a pay-as-you-go financing model. 

“The developer will advance all costs and front the cost of the project, then would be reimbursed as incremental property tax incrude from the project site,” Wempe saisd. 

TIF district boundary

According to the predevelopment agreement the TIF district will be broken down into four project areas. The first area of the development would involve roughly 1,000 acres in the northeastern portions of the site to be developed for manufacturing and warehouse uses. 

Pending future approval from the city council, the agreement also calls for the city to issue Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) to allow for a sales tax exemption on costs to construct, furnish and equip the development. 

Mayor Rick Walker said he feels creating the district is a good long-term investment to bring the property back to a productive use. 

“We’ve been dealing with this for 20 years, close to it. We weren’t a partner or a party to the original plan, but we are square in the middle of it now and that’s where we want to be. It has a very huge impact on our city and by being part of it we are able to steer it in the way that it best benefits this community in the long run,” Walker said. 

“It is a part of the city now. This TIF is going to be something that’s beneficial for not just the city, it is [for] the state also. I think that’s really important to remember for everybody,” Councilmember Lorie Murdock said. 

Annexation clarification  

In November, the De Soto City Council approved the annexation of roughly 370 acres of land near Edgerton Road and 103rd Street. That annexation ordinance also included roughly 6,000 acres of land within the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant north of 127th Street.

However, according to the city, the legal description submitted for the annexation of the Sunflower property included roughly 130 acres of land titled to the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District.

Shortly after the city voided the previous annexation ordinance and re-annexed approximately 371 acres of land at 103rd and Edgerton Road and 5,877 acres on the former ammunition plant property into the city limits. 

On Jan. 18 the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved the annexation of approximately 131 acres into the city limits of De Soto. Thursday the council unanimously approved the re-annexation of the property into city limits. 

De Soto annexation map

103rd Street and Edgerton Road

Councilman Kevin Honomichl recused himself from voting on the rezoning of approximately 371 acres of land at Edgerton Road and 103rd Street. The council then voted in favor of rezoning the property from rural (RUR) to light industrial (M-1). 

In December the De Soto Planning Commission voted to recommend the council deny the rezoning request. City staff also received a protest petition from neighboring property owners.

In May of 2021, the city council approved the planning commission’s amendment of the future land use map. Councilmember Rob Daniels said the decision to rezone a property should be aligned with the city’s established future land use maps. 

“The planning commission, in my opinion, absolutely erred in the sense that they didn’t follow the Golden Criteria. They made an arbitrary decision at that point in time that did not match what they had recommended to us [though the land use map] and that’s problematic,” Daniels said. 

Last month, the city council voted to approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Flint Development for the property. 

The MOU outlines the city’s intent to incentivize development on the property through a 10-year, 85% tax abatement. Flint intends to create roughly 3.5 million square feet of industrial development on the land.

The council will review and vote on a final development agreement prior to issuing any tax incentives.